Holiday drowning shows need for care

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012

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A man watched from the shore as his brother got into trouble and drowned at a Coromandel beach on Christmas Eve.

Jason Anthony Johns' death at Whiritoa beach, south of Whangamata, is being labelled preventable by the people that patrol the region's beaches.

The 43-year-old's death also comes just a day after Water Safety New Zealand urged people to take extra care in the water during the holidays.

Last year 10 people drowned during the 10-day period.

Mr Johns was swimming on Monday just 60 metres from a patrolled, flagged area, when he got into difficulty. He was pulled out of the ocean by lifeguards at Whiritoa but could not be revived.

"Patrolling life guards were already walking towards the victim to advise him to swim between the flags but were unable to reach him prior to him getting into difficulties," Senior Sergeant Rod Carpinter said.

Coromandel regional lifeguard supervisor Matt Williams said the saddest thing about Mr Johns' death is that it was preventable.

‘The flags were just 60 metres away and we'd put lifeguards on earlier in the season than we have in the past. It was a terribly dangerous day."

Coromandel patrols traditionally did not start until Boxing Day, but increased demand had seen that moved forward to get cover on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Mr Williams said the man was the only one swimming in the water at the time, but his brother was on shore looking on.

Mr Williams said something as simple as visiting findabeach.co.nz to find out the dangers of Whiritoa beach could also have prevented his death.

"All the deceased had to do was have a look through it and plan before he went to the beach. That's the most frustrating thing. When we go to the beach we don't plan and that's ultimately our demise."

The site lists the dangers of Whiritoa which include a sudden drop-off, strong currents and rips and large breaking waves.

But Mr Williams said Whiritoa was no more dangerous than any other.

"All beaches have the ability to be dangerous - for me it's not dangerous because I know the risks and I address them and swim elsewhere. Any body of water is dangerous, but we try and remove the dangerous element by putting flags in."

Meanwhile, police are urging people to take extra care when boating during the holiday period. They are aiming to have zero water-related callouts this festive season and want people to listen to weather forecasts and not venture out if they are not prepared, or suitably fitted out, for the conditions forecast.

Other advice includes always wearing a lifejacket, not overloading boats, carrying a marine radio and telling someone, preferably the coastguard, where you are headed.

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Research the dangers of your favourite holiday beach at findabeach.co.nz.

- Waikato

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